Dear Readers,

I hope this week’s edition of our newsletter finds you in decent health, as well as high enough in spirits to brighten up any situation that is in dire need thereof.

Well, what have I been up to since my writings last week? Well, my wife and I have been spending a lot of our time supporting our daughter Emma since she started at her new school a couple of weeks ago. Emma is now going to an international school where almost all her subjects are taught in English, which is quite a change for her considering that since she was 3 years old she has attended only a Japanese kindergarten and a public elementary school like the majority of Japanese kids do, regardless of whether they are bicultural or not.

Emma is not Japanese, she’s in fact bicultural British/Japanese; however, her first language is Japanese because that’s the only language that she’s ever been taught in at school, as well as communicated in with family and friends, so based on that she’s naturally now having some difficulty in certain classes in her new school. This is mostly because all her subjects are in a language that, although she can speak and understand well enough to be able to function inside her new environment, given some amount of time of course, it’s also got a lot to do with the fact that the course curricula and teaching and learning approach at the international school is so very different from what she’s been used to inside the Japanese teaching and learning environments she’s been inside.

The other day, I asked Emma what ability groups she’d been put into for certain subjects she’s studying in her new school, and she told me that she believes she’s been put into the top set for subjects such as mathematics Japanese and French. In mathematics she’s already studied in Japanese public elementary school what she is now studying and as she’s a native Japanese speaker the Japanese study side of things is not posing any problems for her; however, as she’s never studied French before, being in the top set is way beyond her ability, which is obviously confusing and concerning for her at the same time. Also, in Geography, she’s studying about the “Water Cycle, which if she were still studying inside the Japanese school education system she would not be doing until she reaches junior high 2nd grade; that together with the fact that because she’s started from Year 8, and not year 7, she’s missed a whole year of geography curriculum study, which means that she’s a bit lost in it all at the moment. I had a meeting with Emma’s learning support teacher and her history teacher the other day in her school and I was told that Emma’s ability in English and in other main core subjects is currently being assessed, and once the results have been collected together and analyzed Emma will then be placed in subject groups that reflect her strengths and weaknesses.

As already mentioned, Emma has previously never been formally schooled in English so she is somewhat at a disadvantage when compared to most other students in her classes; however, as there seems to be a very strong and caring learner support system in place for special needs students like Emma, whose first language is not English, as well as for other students with various special needs, I do not think it will be long before Emma has settled in, made some good friends and has overcome her current weaknesses: she just needs to be patient, work constantly hard and, according to the teachers I met the other day, smile more. Emma has recently mentioned that she prefers the regimented rote learning approach that Japanese schools generally take towards educating students; she told me that she likes schools that have strict rules and regulations, which she feels her new school is lacking. However, this is not true, her current school does have strict rules and regulations, it’s just that the teaching and learning environment is a very international or heterogeneous one and as such the rules and regulations can and do have different nuances and subtleties, especially when you compare it to how rules and regulations are thought off, implemented, interpreted and followed inside a Japanese or homogenous environment.

In terms of homogeneity, you will always have Japanese people looking at the way people behave from other countries and how they do things, and in a lot of cases their lack of awareness or knowledge will be to blame for all the misunderstandings that often ensue; however, the same can be said when looking at it from the opposite side, there are some very different ways of doing things in Japan and some often bizarre and rigid rules and regulations that exist which people from other countries may not understand, thus not realizing when they are following them of breaking them. The point I want to make is that it is important to learn about and to become aware of cultural differences that exist between people from different countries, as well as people living in the same country sometimes because it is very easy for one person to misconceive another person’s behavior or actions as being wrong even though that is not the case. This comes back to my daughter feeling that her current school appears not to have the same type of rules and regulations that she is used to following; however it does have them and she does need to follow them: she just needs to spend more time inside her new environment to discover that this is absolutely the case.

One plan I do have over the weekend is to try to teach my daughter how to iron her own school shirts and skirts because at the moment, through yours truly, she’s got an iron-on-demand service at her disposal, which I honestly don’t mind doing as I quite like ironing, but like a lot of children of 12/13 years old my daughter has a habit of taking things for granted, especially when it comes to having her mother and father do the things for her that inevitably make living her life that much easier and less in the way of stressful. Until next week, take very good care of yourselves.